Extremophiles and Ecosystems

Winter 2016 and Spring 2016 quarters

Taught by

freshwater ecology, quantitative biology, environmental education

Some organisms have adaptations that allow them to survive in extreme environments such as those with high temperatures, high salt concentrations, extreme cold, or without water. This program will focus on the biology, ecology, and physiology of microorganisms, fungi, plants, and animals which call extreme environments home. Specifically, we will be interested in the various behavioral, physiological, and morphological adaptations organisms have developed that allow them to live in places we would not expect to find life. In this program, we will undertake an exploration of extremophiles across the globe. We will explore organisms that dwell in deep sea vents, hot springs, polar regions, vast deserts, clouds, lava fields, caves, salt flats, and other extreme habitats. We will also explore the unique environments parasitic organisms inhabit and their interactions with host species. We will engage in the study of some of these environments with laboratory exercises and spring field trips to locations harboring these organisms.

We will pair our studies of extreme organisms with studies of climate instability and how humans will need to adapt to changing environmental conditions. We will engage in these topics through readings and other media. Seminar discussions of these readings along with readings in the primary literature will provide us with a deep understanding of the range of responses humans and other living things have to extreme environments. We will engage with topics in evolutionary biology and natural selection and discuss assisted migration and ecosystem restoration.

Through this program, you will also have an opportunity to undertake group research projects and focused study in a related area, thereby developing important skills. These are skills that are useful broadly in the life sciences and will help you apply your hands-on experience to understanding morphological and physiological adaptations and designing scientific experiments.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

biology, ecology, microbiology, and environmental studies.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

No Required Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$400 in spring for a 10-day field trip.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen ONLY ; 100% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 36


Course Reference Number

Fr (16 credits): 20105

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Course Reference Number

Fr (16 credits): 30060

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.

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